Mary Jane shoes come in a vast array of colors, looks and materials. However, the common Mary Jane has some or all of these defining characteristics, depending on how traditional or contemporary the design is.
• Construction for leather or patent leather materials (for the classic style — materials now vary widely)
• Thin strap reaching from one side of the foot, over the top, to the opposite side. Strap was typically thin, though thickness and strap placement changes.
• Button or Buckle attachment on one side of strap. Velcro and elastic are also used for toddler shoes, dance styles or various fashionable designs
• The classic version features a slightly rounded toe box. The exact shape has changed over the years, ranging from very square-looking versions to extremely pointed styles called “poulaines”.
The term maryjane shoes was coined during when artist Richard Outcault created the “Buster Brown” comics in 1902. Buster’s sister was named Mary Jane, and the Brown Shoe Company used the characters to sell their shoes. Both Buster and Mary originally wore the style, but when oxfords came into style. the company started selling the style as a girl’s shoe coined maryjane shoes.
Different types of maryjanes abound. Here are some basic categories you might find at a shoes shop.
• Classic: These types are generally found in the girls’ section and still have either no heel or a very low one. The toe box is still round, and these styles always have the classic “bar” across the top. They come in many colors, with black, white, navy and red being particularly popular.
• Chunky: Classic maryjanes can be chunky, but modern twists can take it a step further with platform heels or very chunky toe boxes. These are a bit edgier and ideal for a youthful, contemporary look.
• Pumps: Mary Jane high heels dress up the classic style with narrow or stiletto-style maryjane heels. The heel may also be “stacked”, a thicker square or rounded heel. Some of these styles have a very skinny strap and narrow toe box or are even “peek-a-boo” style to shoe a bit of painted toes for a night out. They come in leather, vinyl, shimmery fabrics, or even cottons or wool for a more professional style.
• Walking Shoes: Mary Janes may have special orthopedic soles or made especially for walking. Some sneakers even have the signature bar, secured with velcro.
• Slippers: House slippers and ballerine flats alike now sometimes feature the signature bar, sometimes made from elastic instead of the shoe’s primary fabric or material. These sleek styles give a refined look with a whimsical touch. Mules are slippers without backs and are great for slipping on quickly or wearing around the house.
Where to Get Them
A great shoes shop is sure to have some kind of maryjane shoe style for girls and women alike. You can also shop for shoes online to select just the right style and color for your needs. Most online stores have very specific sizing guidelines for a perfect fit. Note shipping and payment policies before you buy your chosen pair.
History of Mary Jane Shoes
The Mary Jane shoe has roots dating back all the way to the Reinassance when men and women alike donned strapped shoes with small, chunky heels. This included notable royalty like Charles IX and Henry VIII. Though the modern style is typicaly worn only by girls and women, evidence of men and boys wearing the strapped shoes in Imperial China and by boys in the West during the 19th and first half of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s that maryjane shoes were designated as shoes for girls and women. The style’s popularity boomed in the early 1900s. Boys, girls, men, and women all wore the styles, and in the 1930s, lavish ballroom dancing variations were all the rage. During World War II, maryjane shoes were made from fabric, mesh and other materials because leather was strictly rationed. This opened the door for a whole new world of styles. Today, classic leather maryjanes are still mainly worn by girls for school or more formal occasions.